Brokers move data. Most of the data is stolen, although they also move “data with intent”: information about future events and plans.
The broker system is designed around trust, which is inherently difficult to understand about a system that moves ill gotten gains. At it’s core is a network of people who move data obtained by independent contractors — mercenaries — into the possession of people who want to buy that data.
Data comes to the brokers in one of two ways:
- A client approaches a broker and wants to hire a team to obtain very specific data from a very specific source.
- An independent team has already completed a run and has data to sell.
Clients (corporations, usually, but also crime families and even individuals) will contact a broker that they know about and will put in a request for a job. They’ll provide information to the broker that’s needed to complete the assignment: the target, any specific information the mercenaries will need to know in order to find what is being sought, etc.
The broker almost always gives the same line: “let me put my feelers out and see what I can find.”
They will then use their extensive knowledge of the “mercenary scene” to assemble a team that has what they believe to be the best skills for the job. They will contact those people (or alternates if those people are unavailable, working, or dead) and finally determine a fee based on the team’s understanding of a non-specific overview of the job.
The broker then contacts the client with the fee, and if accepted, the team engages in the run.
Upon completion, the data is placed into an encrypted online bucket. The client is notified and deposits the money into another encrypted online bucket. This bucket distributes the money to the (remaining) participants, including the broker. Once all of these pieces are in place, all of the buckets unlock: the client receives the data, and the broker and the team receive their payments.
An existing team, bored, makes “smash and grab” runs against random corporate targets. They score some data, and approach the broker in order to sell it.
Brokers convene through a darknet connection. The identities of each broker in this connection is anonymous, even though the brokers no doubt know one another in real life. Each broker who has data for sale lists the goods, and the group decides on the relative value.
All unclaimed goods are placed on the Board, a public darknet that teams and corporations can use to browse what is up for sale. The Board does not provide WHICH BROKER has the data or which team provides it.
Interested buyers can put in bids for the data for a certain amount of time. Once the highest bidder is identified (anonymously), the secure bucket delivery service is invoked and everyone is paid.
The system works for several reasons:
- Brokers are known, so as to be approachable
- Brokers take no sides. They do not work for corporations, nor do they work for mercenaries. They only bring the two together, and act as a go-between when goods need to transfer hands.
- Brokers are not to be messed with. Taking on one broker takes on ALL brokers, and blacklists the individual or client (or anyone associated with the client) for varying periods of time, based on the offense.
- All those who approach the brokers are considered equals.
- Parties remain anonymous when dealing with one another, including the brokers when it comes time to transfer the data.
Often times the first party to approach a broker about “random data” — data being sold by non-contracted teams — will be the target from whom the data was stolen. Many corporations will make overtures to their favored broker (or sometimes all the ones they know about) to simply buy out the data at exorbitant prices in a bid to get the data back and prevent it from falling into the hands of their competition.
Brokers almost never entertain these requests because it would put their impartiality into question. As a means to dissuade future attempts to “out broker” the broker, the starting bid will usually be set at whatever price the corporate representative quoted that they were willing to pay to buy out the data.
Brokering is not a job one decides to apply for. Brokers are almost always sociable centers of community which gives them access to thousands of people. They appear to work for the community because they approach mercenaries for work, and are often local business owners (because it allows them to centralize and receive local traffic in a single location).
Brokers who violate the trust of the community, or of the corporations, do not last long. Mercenaries will refuse to work for brokers who favor corporations, and even for those brokers who favor mercenaries over corporations because it shows that the broker is unable or unwilling to deal fairly within the working system. In the same vein, corporations may benefit from a favoring broker once, but will rarely have the same opportunity another time, as that broker will be run out of business due to a lack of supply.
The oddest statute of the broker community deals with the division of payout when a team member dies during the run. Early on, unscrupulous mercenaries might have purposefully killed a member or members of their own team once the run was complete in order to receive a larger portion of the payout. Also, some brokers had been caught hiring OTHER teams to kill the original team in order to keep the lion’s share of the payout for himself.
In order to combat this, the secure bucket system was put into play. It ensures that the client receives the goods, the broker receives his or her commission, and the team receives their payment. Any payment that would have gone to a member who is confirmed dead (through secure reports from the local morgues) is donated to the charity of the broker’s choice. It’s weird, but it works: since neither the broker nor the party will receive the dead member’s share, and since the secure buckets will only unlock once ALL of the agreed-upon participants have claimed their portion, there’s no reason for anyone to betray anyone for money.
Finally, brokers only deal in data; for physical goods, they will refer the potential client or provider to the black market, which they have no ties to.